By Mychael Urban
Special to The Examiner
Everybody loves a dynamic, mobile quarterback. Speed. It’s that extra element that an awful lot of NFL starters now possess.
Granted, the two most decorated QBs in the league — Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers — aren’t exactly cheetahs. But we’re talking about future first-ballot Hall of Famers, guys in the sunset of their respective careers who came of age in the league before running QBs became the norm.
That’s not to say the trend came out of nowhere. The Eagles practically cornered the market for a number of years, with Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick all dazzling in their own way. Guess what, though? They found lanes in which to run because defenses had to respect their arms.
Remember how exciting it was to watch Johnny Manziel when he was lighting everybody up in college? Tim Tebow, anyone? Some still consider him the best college football player in history.
Turns out neither could consistently make the throws NFL QBs have to make: timing patterns, leading receivers, mid-range weak-side outs, and of course, the ever-popular go route.
As a result, Johnny Football now plays for the FCF Zappers in something called the Fan Controlled Football League. Tebow ended up flailing at breaking balls in the Mets’ organization before mounting an NFL comeback this summer as a tight end.
Which brings us to Sunday’s Niners-Seahawks game at Levi’s Stadium, where Seattle QB Russell Wilson’s every move will be intently watched not just by Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead, but by Niners rookie QB Trey Lance.
It’s an easy, and a tad lazy, comparison.
That Wilson fella can run, throw, and make split-second decisions under duress. He’s like an older version of Trey!
Yes, that’s true to a degree, and should Lance end up having a Wilson-type career, nobody in Ninerland would be anything less than thrilled.
But here’s the lazy part: Wilson and Lance are almost nothing alike in every other way.
Wilson is listed at a generous 5-foot-11, 215 pounds. Lance goes about 6-4, 230.
Wilson was an enigma coming out of Wisconsin, with serious concerns about his “arm talent,” and he fell to Seattle in the third round of the 2012 draft. Lance, despite playing very little football after leading FCS North Dakota State to an unbeaten national title in 2019, wowed scouts with his big arm and blazing speed. So much so, the Niners moved up to the third pick to lock him up as Jimmy Garoppolo’s successor.
So here’s the exciting part: Lance has a shot at an even better career than Wilson.
Even more exciting: Lance is a self-described nerd with a serious affinity for film study and spreadsheets.
In other words, Ryan Leaf he’s not. JaMarcus Russell he most certainly is not.
He’s a studious player who was recruited by Ivy League schools out of high school.
“Intangibles off the charts,” says Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan. “And that’s to go with the obvious off-the-charts physical package.”
So fantasize all you want Sunday about Lance growing up to be just like Wilson.
But you’re setting the bar too low.
“Game manager.” It’s a label that drives me nuts because it’s used as a negative.
Alex Smith has worn it forever. Now you see it frequently being slapped on Jimmy G.
I see it as a positive. If you’re no good, you’ll never get that label. You won’t be around long enough to get it.
Managing the game takes a big brain. Peyton Manning was a game manager. Joe Montana. Hell, Brady is a game manager.
Pretty good company, right?
Do your thing, Jimmy G. Manage the snot out of Seattle.
A good miss
Richard Sherman was a topic of heavy discussion around here this week. Should the Niners bring him back to shore up that shoddy secondary?
It was discussed, but Sherman ultimately signed with Tampa Bay.
Good, I say.
Look, Sherm is not really Sherm anymore. In any way. And I don’t think the Niners really wanted him all that bad.
It would have been like cutting yourself and finding only one Band-Aid in the bathroom cabinet, and it’s been in there so long it’s brittle.
With apologies to Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg, we’re gonna need a bigger Band-Aid.
Mychael Urban is a freelance contributor to The Examiner.